(Since I’ve just written about historical fiction in my last post I figured I’d paste in this post of mine from child_lit, one of my rare reviews.)
Originally posted on child_lit Sat Jul 22 09:09:51 EDT 2006
Because it seems likely to be lost otherwise, I want to draw your attention to a beautifully written work of historical fiction for upper elementary and middle school, Katherine Sturtevant’s A TRUE AND FAITHFUL NARRATIVE. Taking place in Restoration London, the book is about booklover and writer Meg, daughter of a bookseller, for whom publication is sorely limited due to gender. Meg is of her time; feisty as she is, I never felt l I was reading about a 21st century girl in a 17th century world.
Sturvetant has done her research and does a lovely job giving her readers the flavor of the time, but there are two aspects to the novel that make it truly shine for me. First of all, a good chunk of the book is of Meg listening to Edward, a young man who was captured by Barbary pirates, describe his time enslaved in North Africa. It is fascinating stuff, but by having Meg react as would a girl of her time to his description of Muslim beliefs and actions and by having the young man help her to understand them better, Sturtevant has also helped today’s young readers understand them better as well.
And secondly, there is what Meg does when she writes Edward’s story for publication — adjusting points for reasons she explains to him, deciding what can be eliminated, what needs to be changed slightly, and so forth with the final objective of creating something that will attract readers. According to Sturtevant (see “Fact, Fiction, and the Stamp Act” on her website: http://www.thesignofthestar.com), the problems of fact and fiction in writing were problems in the 17th century as much as they are today. And so Meg ponders, “…how I might make from such material a narrative that would both honor the teller and satisfy the needs of the told; how I might related enough of truth that our readers would scent it, and draw near, as a doe to water, but not so much that it would frighten them away with the sound of its splashing.” (p. 238 )
Hope that some of you track down this gem.